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This is definitely the first time I have gone to see an Russell Crowe
and/or Ridley Scott film at the cinema, fully bracing myself to be
I am very pleased to be able to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. It has a very warming glow to it - beautifully played; gorgeously shot. Anyone who isn't just a little bit seduced by Provence after seeing it needs their head (or more likely their heart) examining. The lessons may well have been taught in a hundred films before, but that doesn't make them any less relevant or resonant for the commercial era in which many of us now live...
So, why the terrible reviews? I really don't know. The comedy was not overplayed in the way implied by the critics at all. To be blunt, it was not really necessary, as the warmth and effectiveness of the film and story lies in the romantic drama. The comedy is fine, but doesn't really add anything to the film. However, it does give it a very upbeat, cheerful and likable feel and maybe that is reason enough.
Max's character and Russell Crowe's performance? It's in the quieter moments where Crowe really excels and shows just why someone would want to cast him, as opposed to say Hugh Grant, in a film like this. His reactions to memories and the things that other characters do and say are just so much deeper and more real than Grant is capable of: which is why Grant always comes off as the same character in these films (a variation on the Grant formula) and Max comes off as real.
It almost seems as though the critics have a film with this plot pegged into a box: because they can only see (and can only expect to see) a Hugh Grant characterisation, they cannot accept anything other than a Hugh Grant characterisation. Whereas the actual reason that Crowe doesn't come off as Hugh Grant is because he isn't channelling that kind of characterisation at all. This is a very different kind of film.
Also, the critics seem to be completely off the mark in assessing the character, when they say that he starts off a bastard and ends a bastard too. Actually, this is far more about unearthing other qualities - not completely rejecting those 'bastard' qualities that he begins the film with, but refining and diluting them, as he becomes more and more adjusted to his past. He doesn't change, he opens his heart and mind to qualities that he has been ignoring within himself. You can see that other Max from the moment he opens the letter telling him Henry is dead - but he tries to resist the feelings that are clearly there, in large part because he doesn't want to face the fact that he has let his Uncle down - and all of the guilt that is allied with that.
The film is not the best film I have ever seen. The questions it asks are fairly fundamental, but they aren't startling or especially thought provoking.
But the film is highly enjoyable, from start to finish; and it's warm, something that is pretty rare in films these days.
So, to end, clearly I am not in tune with the critics - but then, increasingly that seems to be the case nowadays. I just think that I see completely different films to them...
A Good Year is much like Peter Mayle's other books shortish,
picturesque, sometimes mouthwatering, generally light and definitely
To that end, this film does the book excellent justice and even manages to make the cinematic transition without losing or adding much in the process. (Max has however become a blend of Wall Street's Gordon Gecco and Capt. Aubrey a cold power hungry cut-throat exterior with a bit of a romantic hedonist hiding a Depardieu-like charming buffoon locked inside.) Sir Ridley Scott makes it clear that the real star here is the Provencal countryside in all of its golden sun soaked glory. Russell is the fulcrum that moves us from one beautiful scene to the next, lightly shuffling and dancing in over-sized pajamas with a suit jacket and a tie for a belt.
And oddly, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
As obvious as the story line is (both in the book and the film) it remains absolutely charming and Crowe's performance is an essential part of what makes it work, hammy or no. He looks great and his trust in Scott as a director allows him to simply have fun here a nice break from all of the heavy (and often heavy handed) Oscar bait bio-pics he's pigeonholed himself into recently.
The rest of the cast is picture perfect. I've been waiting to see when Freddie Highmore would play a young Russell and he's lovely here, big eyed and gracefully gawky as young Max. He holds his own against Albert Finney's lovingly blustery Uncle Henry. Marion Cotillard is gorgeous as Fanny and also sturdy enough to hold her own against both Max and Crowe himself. Abbie Cornish is pretty and sweet and her American accent is damn near perfect. Isabelle Candelier is a colorful counterpoint to Max's stuffy British ways, but it is Didier Bourdon who nearly walks away with the picture. His is a character we haven't seen done a million times before and whose eyes hint at a story equal in richness to the Château itself. Archie Panjabi is Max's assistant, a character created for the film. As the all knowing and mischievously wicked Gemma she appears ready to run away with this picture. (And as always watch for a cameo by Ridley Scott's longtime partner Gianina Facio I won't spoil your fun by telling you where she appears.) Again, there is nothing new or groundbreaking here. It will be compared to Under the Tuscan Sun and a long history of countless other films of this nature an attractive woman or handsome bastard gets in touch with who they really are, gets back to basics and becomes who they were always meant to be.
Forgive me for taking this path, but the wine/film comparisons are inevitable with this one.
Like most of the films made today the fresh elements in this film come from the particular vision of the film maker, the chemistry of the cast and the way all of it can come together in a charming and palatable fashion. In other words, the blending of the key ingredient's.
It all comes down to being a matter of chemistry, craftsmanship and preference. Chemistry causes the grape to ferment and become wine. Craftmanship and experience make that wine something worth drinking. Chemistry amongst the elements of a film story, cast and setting makes these pieces form a cohesive whole. Craftsmanship and experience make it a palatable film.
And the rest is simply a matter of taste.
Though it lacks the crisp originality of a sauvignon blanc, the hipness of a pinot grigio or the bold edginess of a Cabernet, but the elements here come together to make a film that plays pleasantly over the tongue like a decent rose easy to sip and enjoy and given the chance could well leave you with the warm glow of a late summer afternoon.
But enough with the wine clichés! You could easily take advantage of the value of a matinée or opt to wait for DVD, though neither will do the scenery justice. This sweetly charming film will hold up equally well as a date movie, a mid week escape or something that you can take Mom to.
Worth a look.
Like the reviews overseas,Australian critics have generally snubbed
this film as bland and contrived with some nasties regarding Russell's
accent and wooden comedy delivery.
I thoroughly enjoyed this intoxicating film which I agree has its faults, however it succeeded in its core themes of love,friendship and beauty as being central to a well lived life.
I feel Crowe does a good job as Max, an arrogant and ruthless bonds dealer who inherits a château from his Uncle Henry(Finney). Initially interested in how much money this can make, circumstances necessitate a longer stay whereby Max begins to recall his many enjoyable Summers spent with his Uncle at the Provençal château.
Marion Cotillard provides the love interest as the beautiful and tempestuous Dark French girl and young Aussie star Abbie Cornish contrasts as the fair blond Californian beauty who is Henry's illegitimate daughter. Both perform well though I know Cornish is much more capable than this role requires.
The movie is a little uneven at times as Max learns his lesson on what is truly important in life.Sometimes the comedy is light, sometimes slapstick, and all this juxtaposed with some sentimentality and more serious moments. Most of the characters are contrived from Max through to the peasant French verniers. However in spite of this the story unfolds in a believable way and the photography is stunning as you would expect of the Province and Scott.The women are gorgeous, the wine looks delicious and the food makes you salivate. It succeeds in its attempt to seduce and makes one a little sad to return to suburbia as I did.
Finally,on Crowe.I feel there are many critics who love to pan Crowe. It has become the fashion.How he missed out on a nomination for Cinderella Man is beyond me.(Though he would not have beaten Hoffman or Phoenix). He is obviously still anathema in Hollywood and to many critics a man they love to hate because he is simply not liked.One critic criticised him in this film because he was unlikeable but surely that was the point! At least he is an actor who acts. I mean Hugh Grant plays Hugh Grant and Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise.But with Crowe, he always plays his character.And a good job he does once more.
All in all 7 1/2 out of 10.And definitely more delicious on the big screen.
As a longtime fan of Russell Crowe, I do know that he can be funny, charming, sweet and romantic, not only on film but in real life. His recent appearances on the TV promotional circuit have proved this once again. Those who only know his films since LA Confidential for the most part focus on his ability to capture and project power, strength and inner turmoil. Those who have seen his films such as Proof, For the Moment, Love In Limbo and The Sum of Us have seen his ability to show the gentler, funnier and often more uncertain sides of the human experience. (I would also argue that these are readily seen in his films such as The Insider, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man.) A Good Year is a wonderful return to the Russell of those earlier films. Like a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, you know just where it's likely going to take you, but with such lovely, engaging people in such a wonderful setting you just want to enjoy the trip. And so you shall. What a refreshing change from the overheated, oversexed, over special "effected" and over bloodied fare that Hollywood usually dishes out. Thank you so much Mr. Crowe and Mr. Scott for my little vacation in the South of France!
Food tastes better there. The women are naturally beautiful. Walks are
more romantic. Wine is more complex... but life is less so. France can
turn good memories into grand ones. It replaces currency with passion.
It replaces accumulation with appreciation.
I believe the above statement to be very true. France is among the loveliest countries that I've ever been privileged to visit. If they had ESPN, I'd consider moving there. So when I heard that Ridley Scott was directing Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard in a film about a money-hungry British stock-broker who is lured into giving it all up for an inherited French vineyard, I thought it would be right up my alley.
To be honest, the film is so far up my alley that I felt my dreams were being violated. I cannot imagine a life more pleasurable than one spent living in a château, overlooking my own vineyard, waking up every morning to the glorious sensation of Marion Cotillard's morning breath. I'm practically orgasmic at that idea.
"A Good Year" is a crystal glass filled to the brim with 1982 Château Margaux... but unfortunately diluted by some city tap water.
As mentioned before, I loved the premise. The cast is equal to the task. The cinematography is only enhanced by the country's natural canvas. The music is eclectic and joyful, ranging from old standards to a traditional up-tempo score to the modern energy of tracks like Alizee's "Moi Lolita" -- which was, oddly, not chosen to play upon the arrival of a certain character. Nevertheless...
Everything about this film is a deliciously prepared meal... on a paper plate. The plate, in this case, is a flimsy script that brushes over too many details, cannot maintain its tone for more than a scene or two, reaches for grandeur without ever attaining it, and presumes its audience is naive and unworldly.
There are just too many scenes in this film that demanded more time and effort. Characters fall in love too easily. Massive decisions are taken too lightly. The tone shifts uncomfortably from romantic to slapstick to tragic to wistful to sarcastic. It all just felt a little forced. Screenwriter, Marc Klein, seems to be trying too hard. And Ridley Scott seems rushed, as though the studio demanded a running time under two hours.
It is a shame really, because the film has greatness in it... but they uncorked the bottle before it had time to mature.
Russell Crowe is relentlessly reliable on screen. He rarely, if ever, gives even a mediocre performance. It is no wonder that he is so highly regarded. I just thought that his character, Max Skinner (too obvious), was written so two-dimensionally as to handcuff his immense talent. I also thought his English accent was a little too "mate, blimey, b*llocks, b*gger, tally ho" -- If you know what I mean.
Marion Cotillard is typically brilliant as Fanny Chenal, the glorious vision of a waitress from the nearby town. She gives the film, and Max, some heart and soul. She is a fiery French lass with shampoo-commercial hair and skin that makes silk seem like sandpaper. I can't get enough of this actress. She is the visual equivalent of Pringles... once you pop, you can't stop.
Relative newcomer, Abbie Cornish, is also very impressive here. Again, her character, like all the others, is somewhat underwritten. She deserved much more screen time. However, this critic is 100% sure that she will have tons of screen time in many major films over the next decade or so. She is a future star, with talent and beauty in equal measures.
"A Good Year" may remind many of the similar Diane Lane adventure from the female perspective, "Under the Tuscan Sun". The main difference, aside from the sex of the protagonist, is that "Tuscan" decided from the get-go that it was going to be a lighthearted romantic comedy. I think that the screenplay for "A Good Year" got a little confused along the way. Sometimes it aims higher... and that is when it works the best. Other times it aims lower... and that is when it dwindles into lame slapstick comedy. If it had maintained a lofty romantic tone, it may have been one of the best films of the year. As it stands, it is a merely a nice film with a pleasant message.
© Written by TC Candler IndependentCritics.com
A demographically mixed audience seemed to enjoy this film very much.
The photography was beautiful, the acting excellent, and the supporting
players added an extra "punch" to the story line. Tho not an exact
replica of the book it is based more on a story line running thru
Crowe's and Marion's characters. The emphasis being on Crowe's
character finding out what is truly meaningful in his very hectic
super-charged rather non ethical life. He rediscovers what he is
missing i.e. love, trust, and friendships.
A "Great" date movie. The local scenery should definitely be seen on the "big" screen and not on a DVD! Tho not "Oscar" caliber" it is why most film goers go to the movies; pure entertainment and escapism. Ridley and Crowe have achieved that goal. A "Great" date movie and worth the price of admission
I thought the movie was very good... Much better than I expected from
It's not going to be a Best-Picture Oscar winning movie (I think that should go to "The Departed") but it is not intended to be...
If you need explosions, sex and violence every 10 seconds to keep your attention then no this film is not for you. If you just want a relaxing, well-acted, non-American crappy plot popcorn movie then go check it out.
Well worth the $11 for the ticket which is getting pretty hard to say nowadays...
I enjoyed this movie, it had class and character with some lovely ladies. Also I enjoyed the London footage with the contrast against France. Crowe, I think did very well and I was surprised at the end because I didn't now it was a Ridley Scott movie. It would now be interesting to read the book to see how closely it is represented. All things seemed to fit, and it was evident in last encounter with Crowe and his French girl from the scene of when he was a boy at the pool. Great romantic portrayal of an English French relationship. The movie also maintained a good level of humour encased with good vocabulary. I had heard this was a good movie and am glad to able to cement that in words.
The American woman does not claim that the land is hers, but tries to know something about his past. Ridley Scott exploit his good taste to create a charming atmosphere, in which Russel Crowe is just an extra piece of the story. The landscapes, the Provence feeling, the interesting women, and the enchanting world of wine makes you fly between the clouds and wonder: "what if I leave my job right now and start living the real life?". Russel Crowe successes in playing a clumsy business man who realizes he has to make a change. Albert Finney minor appearances are brilliant. It is a movie about feelings, enjoying life, and finding yourself. You have to see it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had the chance to see this film during an early press screening in
Ramat Gan, Israel, several weeks ago, and was pleasantly surprised. A
good friend of mine that came along was thrilled with the views and
landscapes and caught up with the dramatic plot, despite having a
distinct preference for action flicks. Speaking of which, here's a
chance to give a little tip for the guys: although this is generally
referred to as a "chick flick", the screen is filled with the presence
of 2 beautiful women throughout the film. Watch out for the young Abbie
Cornish (who appears in a brief nude sequence, so don't blink) and for
the arousing french actress Marion Cotillard as Crowe's love interest
throughout the film.
As it's title may imply, "A Good Year" is just that: a good film by Ridley Scott. It's tone reminded me of Scott's Matchstick Men and it's premise is similar to Under the Tuscan Sun. Nonetheless, despite the similarities, Scott managed to create something new and different in this movie, muchly thanks to it's rich plot, vivid characters and breathtaking landscape, that build up an enchanting European atmosphere that allows you to wander off to France for some enjoyable 118 minutes.
The plot follows Maximillian Skinner (Crowe), a young and bright manager in the British stock market that has low morals which bring him high financial results. He's cocky and arrogant, and like all characters that appear in films of this nature, his life is about to change dramatically. This occurs one sunny day when he finds out his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney, who appears in flashbacks throughout the film) has passed away and left him his heritage: a vineyard in Provence, France. Skinner immediately realizes the financial value of the property and boards the first plane to the colorful valley. Arriving there, he is filled with childhood memories through which we see Henry teaching his young oprhan nephew Max (Freddy Highmore, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") the values of life. Meanwhile, the plot thickens when a young attractive American girl arrives, claiming she's Henry's long lost daughter and posing a threat to Henry's inheritance. When problems at work force him into a for-longed leaf of absence, he falls in love with a local French woman and starts unveiling the secrets of the vineyard.
I gave it 8 out of 10, for it is a good way to spend a matinée or an evening with your partner.
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